Now a "dean" of North Carolina wine making, Steve Shepard has been plying his trade in-state since 1989. I well recall him carting around samples back then, in order to find placement in retail shops such as A Southern Season, where I worked as the wine manager. Steve made some terrific wines at Westbend Vineyards, including a deft Chambourcin and a brisk Seyval Blanc. Having moved down the road to RayLen Vineyards & Winery in 2000, Steve's work continues to excell as he continually zeros in on what works best in the Yadkin soil. (He AND the vines are aging gracefully!)
RayLen uses solar panels to cut their energy costs by 25%, and Steve's latest 2 year stint as president of The North Carolina Wine Grower's Association keeps him and RayLen at the cutting edge. Steve has always crackled with energy and conviction, and that shows no signs of diminution as he continues to convince us that our state can make wines comparable to the world's foremost regions. I just tasted today's wine (a new release) a few days ago, and a more characterful summertime refresher would be hard to find.
2011 Rosé of Cabernet Franc, RayLen Vineyards and Winery, North Carolina $12.99 srp
Beautiful pink salmon color with mandarine highlights. Using 100% Yadkin Valley fruit, this has a dewy spring garden nose that flares the sinuses; the blackberry and cranberry notes encourage immediate sipping. ( There's something about the Cabernet Franc bouquet when emanating from the Yadkin Valley it's as if it has found the perfect home. So soft, luxurious and fully expressive, both in its rosé and red versions, that you find yourself smiling!) Excellent body, grace and balance on this wine's fresh berry palate. A joyful winner that puts an exclamation point on this grape's potential and RayLen's imaginative take on it. Drink now-2014.
From the Durham Magazine Blog